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Jonathan Kettleborough

Corollis Limited

Managing Director

Read more from Jonathan Kettleborough

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The power and value of execution pt4


In the fourth article of this series, Jonathan Kettleborough continues his look at the key ingredients for ensuring flawless execution within a successful L&D department.

Empowered staff are the ones who fix problems, who go the extra mile to make sure you’re booked on the right course, who say ‘no problem’ when you ask them a question, who look beyond the cost of giving you another pen or flipchart pad and who do what’s right for the customer. But they can only do this if you let them. If you want to see a fun video of where empowerment is removed from the front line then take a look at this.

Empowering your front line will reap rewards but these come at a cost, and the cost is time and money. You absolutely must invest time and money in your front line teams. We’ve all called call centres – most of which can be quite poor – but just occasionally you’ll get a great one. The difference? Time and money has been spent on the front line teams. is an online shoe and apparel shop based in Henderson, Nevada. Since its founding in 1999, Zappos has grown to be the largest online shoe store and in July 2009, the company announced it would be acquired by At Zappos, it's not unusual for someone interviewing for a $13-per-hour call center job to meet with 15 people before being hired. If they do get the job offer, they will be required to sit through several weeks of training, including listening to recordings of real customer interactions, before they ever work a full day. Clear investment in the front line.

"Empowering your front line will reap rewards but these come at a cost, and the cost is time and money. You absolutely must invest time and money in your front line teams."

But if you chose to restrict your front line and produce a process for every eventuality then the more stifled your teams become and the less they can serve the business and the customer. Give them guidelines, of course, set boundaries, but let them get on with looking after the customers and the learners and the business, and, when properly supported they’ll do a brilliant job.

Let’s return to Amazon for a moment, where innovations such as shopping cart recommendations have been the direct result of entry-level employees taking initiative. Amazon actively encourages its employees to take the initiative, to try something new and to innovate. 3M famously 'invented' the Post-It note because it encourages staff to bootleg part of their time for other projects. Google does the same resulting in new and innovative products and ideas.

Away from the online world, Zara - the Spanish fast-fashion company - receives quantitative data and qualitative observations from store managers daily to better understand what customers want. Every day, staff in the stores chat with customers, asking questions like, 'What if this skirt was longer?' or 'What other colors would you like for this item?' This has allowed Zara to limit failed product introductions to just 1%  (the industry averages nearly 10%) while producing nearly ten times the number of products as its largest competitors.

Empowering the front line works, empowering the front line delivers meaningful benefits and value. Restricting the frontline will limit your success – and that’s a fact.


Empowering your front line will result in a number of major benefits. Things will get done faster, people will feel more involved with the business and customers, either internal or external, will receive a much higher level of service. Empowered people deliver aligned organisations and better service and a higher degree of executions and delivery. It’s damned hard to achieve but you’ve just got to want to work hard enough to make it a reality.

Jonathan Kettleborough has over 25 years’ experience in the learning and development profession. He has held senior positions and worked with clients in the nuclear, retail, financial services, stockbroking, business and technology services, telecommunications, government and integrated learning. Jonathan can be contacted via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Jonathan’s new book, Seeing Eye to Eye is available via Amazon and a number of other major online booksellers in hardback, softback and all major electronic formats

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Jonathan Kettleborough

Managing Director

Read more from Jonathan Kettleborough

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